Amid destruction, Reef’s iconic heart still beats: WWF Australia

Aerial view of Hardy Reef, home to the Heart Reef, in the Great Barrier Reef. These images were taken on June 20, 2017 by a drone to assess if the Heart Reef has been bleached.

VIDEO released today, June 29, by WWF-Australia shows it was a lucky escape for the heart-shaped structure with Cyclone Debbie smashing coral just 18km away at Bait Reef.

But while Heart Reef avoided cyclone damage, it appears to have suffered some bleaching, according to Associate Professor Paul Marshall, formerly the climate change director for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, who viewed WWF’s vision.

“I could see some dead coral, covered in algae, and it’s likely bleaching was responsible. It shows no part of the Reef is immune to bleaching,” Dr Marshall said.

Bleaching and cyclone damage will be on the minds of World Heritage Committee members gathering in Poland this weekend for their annual meeting.

The plight of the Great Barrier Reef is on the agenda and so is a report stating that most world heritage coral reefs are expected to be seriously impacted by climate change.

An underwater heat wave, caused by climate change, has fatally bleached large sections of the Great Barrier Reef for the past two years.

Meantime, a spate of destructive storms has “led to speculation that the intensification of Tropical Cyclones (fewer TCs overall, more of them at higher intensity) projected for the southwest Pacific under global warming is already occurring in the GBR region”.

For more than 30 years, between 1970 and 2004, no category 4 or 5 cyclones crossed the Great Barrier Reef.

But in recent years eight intense cyclones have hit the Reef: Ingrid 2005(5); Larry 2006(5); Hamish 2009(5); Yasi 2011(5); Ita 2014(5); Marcia 2015(5); Nathan 2015(4); and Debbie 2017(4).

“The burning of dirty fossil fuels has caused back-to-back mass bleaching and may be behind a run of intense cyclones. Australia must do its fair share to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 C,” WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck said.

“Saving the Reef depends on global efforts to combat climate change and governments, local communities, businesses and non-government organisations working together to manage local threats such as water quality,” Dr Marshall said.

“The lucky escape of Heart Reef gives us hope, and inspires us to try harder,” he said.

Christian Miller who filmed the Bait Reef destruction said: “In my 25 years of diving around the world, the scene I saw at Bait Reef was one of the most devastating. It was like a bulldozer had been driven over it. There were piles of rubble everywhere.”

WWF-Australia is encouraging people to sign a petition at https://makeyourmark.panda.org/gbr urging greater action to save the Reef.

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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